Each year, HGVs registered in Great Britain transport around 150-170 billion tonne kilometres of cargo and travel around 20 billion kilometres in the process.
With an ever-increasing reliance on haulage companies to move all manner of goods, HGVs will remain a key part of the logistics landscape for the foreseeable future.
There are nearly 500,000 registered right here in Great Britain but right now the challenge is having enough drivers qualified to work with them.
It’s for that reason that qualifying to drive a HGV is a pretty solid career choice.
There is more demand for new drivers than ever before and so there are opportunities aplenty.
While the profession sometimes gets a bad press, it can be a hugely rewarding and interesting career path.
If you’ve ever thought about becoming a HGV driver but don’t really know where to start, this guide will walk you through the process of how you can get your licence and start work.
We’ll cover everything you need to know, from what your typical day may look like as a HGV driver right through to how you get your HGV licence and become fully qualified.
We’ll share some answers to frequently asked questions, look at what the average salary of a HGV driver in the UK looks like and examine any other challenges and expectations you may face in becoming a HGV driver.
Becoming a HGV driver is a hugely rewarding experience.
In the UK, we rely heavily on the good transportation industry for just about everything.
From the food on your table to the clothes on your back, and just about everything else! Furniture, cars, pet supplies, medicines, leisure equipment – just about anything you can buy is transported by HGV.
Without them, our goods industry would grind to a halt and our lives would look a lot different.
Supermarket shelves would be empty, businesses – both small and large – would begin closing in no time and we’d revert back to an old-fashioned lifestyle of buying from local suppliers only.
So, by becoming a HGV driver, first and foremost you are performing a key role for Great Britain.
You are transporting vital goods that keep the country moving.
You help to ensure we can go about our lives as we have become accustomed to, and in the process, you will be keeping business running and people in work up and down the UK.
If that’s not reason enough, then there are other factors which could sway you into becoming a HGV driver.
By the very nature of what you are doing, you will be travelling to exciting new parts of the country that you may not have visited before.
Even more exciting than that, you will most likely drive internationally, seeing new countries, new cultures and broadening your horizons.
A by-product of travelling is the people you meet.
You will meet people you would have never come across if you weren’t in the HGV business.
Making new friends, new contacts and potentially unearthing new opportunities in life on any given day.
Driving a HGV isn’t just a job.
It presents an opportunity to truly change your life and let’s you see things from a whole new perspective whilst contributing directly to having a well-run community and goods industry.
Finally, if you enjoy listening to music, podcasts and audiobooks, then driving a HGV is a great way of indulging in your hobby while doing your job.
With so much time at the wheel, you’ll be able to listen to more albums, podcasts and books than ever before.
So, what are you waiting for?
There are a few prerequisites that you’ll need to have before choosing to qualify and work as a HGV driver.
In addition to the basic things, you’d be expected to have for a driving job, such as good eyesight, you will also need the following if you are to fully embrace life as a HGV driver.
A Love Of Driving:
You’re going to spend many hours at the wheel, driving up and down the country.
So, if you don’t like driving, this obviously isn’t for you.
A Safety First Mindset:
Driving a HGV is a very responsible job and safety is paramount.
Having a safety-first mindset and a good eye for detail is essential.
From motorway traffic jams and roadside delays to grumpy transport managers and out of hours delivery issues – you’re going to need to have patience in this job.
Good Physical Condition:
Getting in and out of the cab is a job in itself, but being able to perform safety checks, load/unload and concentrate for long periods of time, physical fitness is important.
Comfortable With Your Own Company:
You’ll be spending a lot of time on your own, so you need to be comfortable with that.
In addition, you will also have to pass a medical exam, but we’ll cover that in our ‘Getting Qualified’ section.
The average salary for a HGV driver in the UK is currently higher than the national average wage, something many people don’t realise.
The average salary for a HGV driver in this country is £31,200 per annum, however, it’s worth noting that as your career progresses, there may be plenty of opportunities to earn even more still.
Some experienced HGV drivers will bag in excess of £60,000 per year, a figure many of us will struggle to reach in our current career paths.
What’s more, as the driver, you will not have to pay for insurance to drive the HGV.
As you probably know, this is the responsibility of the company who operates the HGV, likely your employer, however, it’s important not to assume you will walk straight into a £30k+ salary upon qualifying.
Many new drivers will start on a salary of around £18-£22k and work up from there.
A HGV driver is of course responsible for safely transporting cargo in their truck from collection/pick-up through to the destination.
In most typical circumstances, they will also be responsible for the safe loading and unloading of cargo to their vehicle, however, before you can get into the loading/unloading and down to business of transporting the cargo, there are some important checks you need to carry out.
Here is a summary of what a typical day may look like as a HGV driver.
First Task Of The Day – Vehicle Checks:
Before beginning a journey, by law HGV drivers are required to conduct some standard checks on their vehicle to ensure it is safe to operate.
The HGV walk-around vehicle check should include:
As stated, as the driver of the vehicle, you are responsible for the safe loading and unloading of your vehicle.
This includes everything, from ensuring the process of loading/unloading is safe (moving forklift trucks, people, straps, etc) through to the actual load of the HGV being safe, secure and stable.
You will be given full training on how to do this during your driver training, however, it’s something that you should never underestimate the importance of.
Different types of HGVs and different types of cargo will also have special considerations when it comes to how to load and unload safely.
Driving & Driving Hours:
Finally, once checks are complete and your cargo is safely loaded, it’s time to hit the road.
As a HGV driver, often you are able to manage your own working hours a little as long as cargo is delivered on time.
There are some laws you need to stick to in terms of duration of driving you do in any given journey, day or week.
In the UK, HGV drivers must not drive for more than 4.5 hours without taking a break.
In total, you are permitted to drive for 9 hours in the day, but you must always take a minimum of 2 breaks and not exceed 4.5 hours without a break.
If you’re splitting your day in two (2 x 4.5 hour driving), then your first break must be 15 minutes or more and your second break 30 minutes or more.
You are allowed to split your day up differently in terms of breaks if you wish, again, as long as you do not exceed the 9 hours in total for the day.
An example routine may be 2 hours driving, 15 min break, 2.5 hours driving, 30 mins break, 4.5 hours driving, finish.
Twice during a week, a HGV driver can actually drive for 10 hours a day, but then rule around not exceeding 4.5 hours without a break remains.
For example, on two days within a week, you may have a routine that looks like this; 4.5 hours driving, 45 mins break, 4.5 hours driving, 45 mins break, 1 hour driving.
Also, beware that there are weekly limits on your driving hours as well.
In any given week, drivers cannot drive for more than 56 hours.
Additionally, in any two-week period, drivers are not permitted to drive for more than 90 hours.
In reality, this means if you drive for the max 56 hours in a single week, then you cannot exceed 36 hours in the week either side.
In addition to what we have already covered, there may be other parts to your job as a HGV driver depending upon the company you work for and scenarios you find yourself in.
For example, you may have to liaise with a transport manager on delivery schedules, monitor traffic reports and roadwork information both before and during your journeys, perform basic maintenance tasks on your vehicle and fill out paperwork and logbook information relating to cargo or your vehicle.
If you’re looking to become a HGV driver, then the biggest challenge you face is getting qualified to do so.
Thankfully, while the process is quite in depth, it’s also very achievable.
Before you begin the application process to become a HGV driver, you will first need these two things.
If you meet those two criteria, then you can move on to the next steps.
They are as follows:
Apply For A Provisional Commercial HGV Driving Licence:
Before diving straight into this, it’s worth noting that there are several types of goods vehicle licences that you can apply for.
Category C1 and C1E cover medium-sized vehicles, however, we’re going to dive straight into the HGV licence which is most commonly Category C.
This is what the vast majority of HGV drivers in the UK have and it allows you to drive commercial vehicles over 3.5 tonnes with a trailer up to 750kg.
This covers you for most articulated lorries.
There is also a Category CE which is the very top licence you can earn as a lorry driver, but we will leave that one alone and instead focus on the Category C.
When applying for a Category C licence, you must have a medical examination.
This can be done by your GP or a private firm that specialises in driver medical exams.
Whoever performs the exam will have to fill out a D4 medical form which is then submitted to the DVLR for evaluation.
Be prepared to pay for this service as well, even when using your own GP. It can be anything from £50-£150+.
The medical is aimed at confirming that you are in good standing health to operate a large vehicle on a public highway.
The exam will be split into two parts.
Firstly, a discussion with the doctor/examiner about your health. You must be open and honest in this discussion.
Secondly, there will be a physical examination during which things like eyesight and blood pressure will be assessed, as well as your general physical health.
Pre-existing conditions will be analysed to assess any risks they may pose to you operating a large vehicle.
Once you have ticked all the above boxes, you are now ready to begin your HGV training.
Complete Driver CPC Part 1 – Theory Test:
CPC stands for ‘Certificate of Professional Competence’ and is the main qualification needed to become a HGV driver.
Once you have your provisional licence you can book parts 1 and 2 of your Driver CPC.
Part 1a is a multiple-choice theory test and part 1b is a hazard perception test.
You can choose to do both on the same day although they must be done separately.
You must also pass them within 2 years of each other.
Costs for this are £26 (Part 1a) and £11 (Part 1b).
Once you have successfully passed both parts, you will be sent a theory test certificate in the post.
You will need this to book your CPC Driver Part 3 test.
Complete Driver CPC Part 2 – Case Studies:
The next step is to complete the Driver CPC Step 2.
Important to note at this point, you do not need to have passed the Driver CPC Part 1 in order to do part 2. It can be booked as soon as you have your provisional licence.
Driver CPC Part 2 consists of seven case studies that you will have to go through on a computer at the test centre and answer between 6 and 8 multiple choice questions on each.
The case studies present scenarios that you may come across in your professional career as a lorry driver.
The test lasts for 75 minutes and you will be given your results before you leave the test centre.
If successful, the letter you are given will include your test pass reference number which you will need when booking the Driver CPC Part 4 Practical Demonstration Test.
Again, your pass is valid for 2 years.
If you do not successfully pass the Driver CPC Part 4 within 2 years of passing, you will have to complete Part 2 again.
The cost for the Driver CPC Part 2 test is £23.
HGV Driver Training:
While this isn’t necessarily step 4 of the process, it’s a good place to put this in.
Once you have your provisional licence, you can begin to take lessons and train to become a HGV driver.
There are many HGV training schools around the UK whom you can contact directly – fortunately, quite a few of them are members of LearnerDriverZone, simply click here to begin finding the best HGV training providers in your area.
Complete Driver CPC Part 3 – Driver Training:
Once you have undergone training and you have also passed the Driver CPC Part 1, you are then able to move onto the driving ability test in Part 3.
This will last around 1.5 hours and includes vehicle safety questions, practical road driving and off-road exercises.
At the end of the test, your examiner will tell you whether you have passed or not. To pass, you will need to make 15 or fewer driving faults and no serious or dangerous faults.
The cost for the Driver CPC Part 3 test is £115 on a weekday or £141 at weekends.
Complete Driver CPC Part 4 – Practical Demonstration:
The final part of the examination process is the practical demonstration.
You need to have passed Driver CPC Part 2 before you can book Part 4.
During this test, you are being examined on whether you can:
Of the five topic areas, a total of 20 points are available from each.
You must score a minimum of 15 in each and an overall score of at least 80 out of 100 to pass.
Upon successful completion of the Driver CPC, you can then begin to apply for jobs and embark on your career as a HGV driver.
What Am I Responsible For As A HGV Driver?
As a HGV driver, you are responsible for the safe loading/unloading of cargo and ensuring the cargo is delivered safely by the time/date specified.
You must do this within the number of driving hours permitted by law for any given day or week.
What Will I Get Paid?
You’re likely to start with an annual salary of around £18k-£22k after qualifying but can earn over £30k once experienced.
In some scenarios, HGVs drivers have been known to earn in excess of £60k per year.
Do I Need To Have A Driving Licence Before Applying For A HGV Licence?
Yes, you need to have a full driving licence before you can begin training as a HGV driver.
What Is A Driver CPC & Do I Need One?
The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) is a qualification that was introduced across Europe to maintain road safety and keep driving levels high.
All HGV drivers need one.
Check out the ‘Getting Qualified’ section above for more information on it.
In short, if you plan to drive a lorry, bus or coach as your main job, you need to complete Driver CPC.
What Is A HGV Walkaround Vehicle Check?
This is a safety check that all HGV drivers are required to carry out on their vehicle prior to beginning a journey.
More detail on this can be found in the ‘A Typical Day For A HGV Driver’ section of this guide.
How Long Does It Take To Qualify As A HGV Driver?
Typically, it takes 6-8 weeks to qualify for your LGV (HGV) licence.
This includes from the initial medical right through to completion of all tests and exams, subject to you passing them.